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Japan to Probe Line Following it Allows Chinese Engineers Access User Data

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Japan’s government said on Wednesday it would investigate messaging app Line, owned by SoftBank Corp’s Z Holdings Corp, after Japanese media reports that it let Chinese engineers at a Shanghai affiliate access Japanese users’ data without informing them.

Under Japanese privacy regulations, companies have to let users know when their personal data is sent overseas, public broadcaster pubic broadcaster NHK and other local media reported earlier.

“We can’t say yet if Line breached regulations or not, and we are conducting an investigation to find out,” a government official responsible for overseeing privacy regulations told Reuters. If Line is found to have acted improperly then the Cabinet Office can direct it to make improvements, he added.

“There hasn’t been anything that breached legal or regulatory boundaries,” a spokesman for Line said.” We will continue to respond to laws and regulations in all jurisdictions, including Japan.”

In a statement posted later on its website, the company apologized for causing any concern and for not adequately explaining policies regarding data management to users. No inappropriate access occurred, it added.

Four engineers at a company in China, who perform system maintenance for Line, were allowed to access servers in Japan from 2018 that contained the names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of users, local media said.

The reports come as Japan tightens laws and regulation around the use and storage of personal data held by internet companies.

Line, which has 186 million users worldwide – of which just under half are in Japan – has since blocked access to user data at the Chinese affiliate, the company spokesman said.

Line this month became part of Z Holdings, formerly Yahoo Japan, creating a $30 billion domestic internet heavyweight to compete against local and U.S. rivals.

Messages sent via Line can only be read by the sender and receiver as the app, like other messaging apps, encrypts message content end to end.

Z Holdings is controlled by SoftBank Corp through holding company A Holdings, which is jointly owned by SoftBank Corp and South Korea’s Naver Corp, the former operator of Line.

Z Holdings, which plans to invest 500 billion yen ($4.58 billion) in technology over the next five years, announced the Line tie-up last year but was forced to delay the move from October because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Line has expanded its business into cashless payment and more recently telemedicine.

Shares of Z Holdings, which also controls fashion retailer Zozo Inc and office supplies firm Askul Corp, dipped 1.1% to 611 yen, compared with the Tokyo exchange’s TOPIX index which was flat.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Telecommunications

Truecaller Hits 43 million African Users, Releases a Business Solution

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Truecaller, a caller ID service and phone search engine, has launched an identification solution to help companies prove their legitimacy while calling customers, thus increasing safety and reducing fraud.

Truecaller helps users to see who is calling and automatically screens out spam calls and SMSes.

Truecaller Business Identity, a modern enterprise solution, allows companies to verify their identities using a green checked business badge that accurately displays the company’s profile name, photo, and logo.

“Fraud continues to be a major problem across Africa, and as a company, Truecaller wanted to provide solutions on a business as well as a personal level,” said Zakaria Hersi, Director of Business Development in Africa. “Trust is at the core of everything we do, and because we spend so much of our time on our phones, we need to make sure that our contact takes place in a secure atmosphere, which was also part of the strategy behind our harassment campaign in March this year.”

The new solution increases trust and productivity in business-to-business contact by providing customers with the assurance that the caller is a Truecaller-verified business.

A checked business on Truecaller gets a verified tick mark icon and can lock their brand name and profile picture in addition to the green Caller ID and green Verified Business badge.

Consumers would be able to tell which calls to trust as a result of this.

Importantly, users will continue to see the amount of spam marks as before, and they will have the option of labeling checked phone numbers as spam or blocking them entirely.

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Telecommunications

FG Lifts Ban on New SIM Cards’ Issuance

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The federal government yesterday reversed its policy banning the sale of new Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, in agreement with industry stakeholders, also yesterday revised the National Digital Identity Policy for SIM card registration.

According to him, the activation of new SIM card, banned in December last year, will begin in April.

Pantami directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to ensure the provisions of the National Digital Identity Policy for SIM card registration are strictly followed by all operators and subscribers.

He said the implementation of the policy and issuance of new SIMs and other suspended activities would resume on the same date, provided that verification had been completed and the guidelines fully adhered to.

According to a statement by the Technical Assistant (Information Technology) to the Minister, Dr. Femi Adeluyi, an earlier policy was approved on February 4, 2020, while the revised policy was developed in early March 2021. The policy was further improved and endorsed for implementation by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 26, 2021.

According to the statement, the final amendments to the revised policy, based on the directives of Buhari to make the use of the National Identification Number (NIN) mandatory for all SIM registration, were completed on April 14, 2021.
The policy includes guidelines on new SIM acquisition and activation, SIM replacement, new SIM activation for corporates and Internet-of-Things/Machine-to-Machine (IoT/M2M), among others.

The statement said: “For the corporate registration, institutions will be required to appoint a telecoms master (at the minimum of an executive management level) to provide the operational primary NIN representation. The telecoms master will also be responsible to ensure that the users provide their NINs to serve as a secondary NIN.

“For IoT/M2M activations, SIM security protocols would be implemented on the SIM profile to ensure that SIMs can only be used for point-to-point data services specific to the URL they are working with. All other services will be barred.”
Pantami stated that progress had been made in the NIN registration process.

“Nonetheless, the federal government is committed to supporting all Nigerians and legal residents to obtain a NIN. The biometric verification process has been slower than anticipated, owing largely to the non-adherence of many previous SIM biometric capture processes to the NIMC standards.

“The revised policy will ensure that operators conform to the required standards for biometric capture. The guidelines in the policy have been painstakingly developed and while they are thorough, it should be noted that they have been developed that way in national interest since the SIM is essentially a national resource. Citizens and legal residents are encouraged to bear with the government as the process has been developed in the best interest of the country,” the statement added.

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E-commerce

Walmart eCommerce Sales to Grow by 21% in 2021 to $65 Billion, Nearly a Sixth of Amazon’s $367 Billion

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A massive boom in click-and-collect trends is expected to accelerate Walmart’s pandemic-driven momentum through 2021.

According to the research data analyzed and published by ComprarAcciones.comWalmart’s online sales will grow by 21.2% to $64.62 billion in 2021. Its share of US online sales will rise from 6.7% in 2020 to 7.1% in 2021.

Based on the latest NRF ranking, Walmart is the world’s biggest retailer, followed closely by Amazon. Its total sales for 2020 – both online and offline – amounted to $559 billion, more than $200 billion ahead of Amazon’s figure.

Click-and-Collect Purchases will Grow by 15% to $83 Billion in 2021

Walmart’s US online sales for 2021 will almost double eBay’s estimated $38.67 billion. They will also be higher than the combined total of $60.59 billion that Best Buy, Target and The Home Depot will generate.

However, the big box retailer will be far behind the top US online marketplace, Amazon. Amazon’s sales are projected to reach $367.19 billion, nearly six times the Walmart total. Its share of US online sales will increase from 39.8% to 40.4%. Third-party vendors on the platform will grow sales by 16.5% to $220.39 billion. That will be 60% of total sales.

Among the factors driving Walmart’s growth is its huge brick-and-mortar footprint which drives online sales via click-and-collect. It has more than 4,700 stores in the US and 90% of Americans live within a 10-mile radius of one of them.

The click-and-collect trend saw significant growth in 2020. According to an eMarketer report, US shoppers made purchases worth $72.46 billion using the method. Compared to the 2019 total of $35.02 billion, the figure marked a growth rate of 106.9% YoY. It accounted for 9.1% of all online purchases, up from 5.8% in 2020. The growth is expected to carry into 2021. Total sales are also set to rise by 15.2% to $83.47 billion.

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